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Mental Matters

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Mental Matters PSYCHOLOGICAL DISTRESS IN WORKING SOUTH AFRICA Mental health is a challenge that some 30% of people struggle with at some stage in their lives. The personal, family, business, and social costs are very significant. Stigma, access-to-care, rates of trauma, and other challenges remain. Employers can do much to help, and will help themselves in the process. Context & Prevalence Mental health is a complex consideration and it is not easily or simply defined. Sigmund Freud's definition, "the capacity to work and to love" 5 remains simple and helpful. The World Health Organisation (WHO) also offers a useful if rather idealistic definition, "subjective well-being, perceived self-efficacy, autonomy, competence, inter-generational dependence, and self- actualization of one's intellectual and emotional potential, among others" 6 These definitions create something of a dilemma in that very few people feel this "well" consistently and so it's not always clear what is realistic or possible. Given the challenges of modern life, some estimates suggest that as many of half of the world's population experience sub-optimal mental health 7 . Psychological distress, or "mental health disorder" as it is more clinically termed, is certainly common: in South Africa, 30% suffer from mental health disorders at some stage in their lives 3 - in a one year period some 17% have a recognisable mental health disorder 3 . 20% of employees in the workplace report being "very stressed" or "highly stressed" 4 . The most common mental health disorders are anxiety disorders (including panic attacks, generalised anxiety, phobias, and post-traumatic stress disorder), mood disorders (depression), and substance abuse (including alcohol). NOTE: this excludes some of the more serious mental health conditions like psychosis (e.g. schizophrenia) and personality disorder, which are more complex but less common.

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